Captured Tiger shreds tame image

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“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

As a devoted Tiger Woods fan, it’s been rather depressing to watch his image and home life implode over the past week. Each new revelation on the Internet seems improbable—until something else comes along that gives it credibility (like the release of a private voice mail).

The latest is that there are three possible mistresses with whom he allegedly had prolonged affairs.

That means Tiger’s infidelity isn’t just a onetime-only mistake in judgment, it’s a way of life. As Jesper Parnevik (Woods’ golfing colleague and the man who introduced him to his wife, Elin) now says, “we probably thought he was a better guy than he is.”

Some may say that Tiger’s hubris has led to his downfall, but I attribute it to mere stupidity and “the heart wants what it wants” philosophy that Woody Allen used to justify sleeping with his stepdaughter.

Tiger was stupid to believe that women who have no moral problems sleeping with a married man won’t kiss and tell when the party is over.

He was stupid to believe that they wouldn’t hold on to voice mails, texts or anything else that proves they once had an affair with the great Tiger Woods. Now, with the Tiger about to be caged, they’ve got nothing to lose and 15 minutes of fame to gain.

So is the moral downfall of a sporting hero any of our business? Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wrote Tiger’s morality is none of our concern. If Tiger were just another pro-golfer, I’d agree. But he isn’t. He’s the first sporting figure to make more than $1 billion—and that isn’t just from golf.

The real money comes from selling his image—one of character, discipline, persistence when things get tough, and the will to win. He has built his own brand by selling this image to the public, and therefore we have a right to know when Tiger’s credibility is diminished. If his image lacks authenticity, he becomes just another salesman selling us a load of you-know-what.

Sorry, Tiger. But once you go beyond selling golf to selling the Tiger image, you lose the right to separate the personal from the professional.

Case in point: There’s a reason that golfer John Daly isn’t endorsing running shoes and family vehicles. He’s a great golfer when sober, but he drinks, smokes, gets divorced a lot and tends to act out. That’s his image and, frankly, that’s why he has sponsorship ties to Hooters. That’s also why a website that links up adulterers has apparently offered Tiger $5 million for his promotional services.

Parker also misses the fact that the gender card is at play. The Internet and talk shows are rife with jokes about Tiger’s facial injuries, and the possibility that his wife attacked him in a fit of rage and chased him with a golf club (e. g. “Elin’s the only person who can beat Tiger Woods with a golf club”).

But what if the situation were reversed? What if Tiger had injured his wife and chased her with a golf club? There’d be no fantasies about it being a private family matter.

No one is perfect, and Tiger didn’t go from saint to sinner in a day. He swears, throws clubs and acts like a spoiled child on the golf course, but we put up with it because it is supposedly a (rather sorry) part of his pursuit of perfection. We never saw him as perfect, but there was an expectation that he was an honourable man.

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking,” and Woods has clearly failed that test. Repeatedly. He’s made a payload of cash from his carefully cultivated image, and now the public has a right to know if that image is a charade.

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